So here I am sitting on a train that is currently winding it’s way to London from Glasgow. I should really be catching up on sleep but every time I start to doze an uncomfortable thought jolts me back to reality. The thought? That the Tories are in complete control of the political agenda, they are already drawing up the battle lines for the next election and by the time the other parties wake up to the threat it may be too late.
The dominant Conservative element of this coalition government are determined to learn from the mistakes of the 1997 Labour Government. Not for them a timid first term, patiently fighting one battle at a time whilst all the while keeping one eye on the polls and focus groups. We are witnessing an object lesson in the exploitation of power by a party that sees the last 13years as an aberration, a temporary lapse in the electorates collective judgement.
Crippling cuts in public expenditure, the effective decoupling of education from LEA’s, the largest overhaul of health provision since the inception of the NHS. Promises of prison reform and welfare reform, not to mention a proposal to significantly reduce the size of the House of Commons and of course a referendum on AV. All this, and it is only August. Once Parliament returns from the summer recess it is time for the spending review and that is when the real fun begins. Don’t let yourself fall for DC’s easy charm – this government is working with an ideological zealotry that Thatcher would be in awe of. Under the cover of ‘necessary cuts’ we are about to witness a dramatic and permanent cut in the size of the state, with those on the margins of society hit the hardest.
And what of the other parties? Nick Clegg and his band of Lib-Dems have gambled all on an AV referendum, ceding all power and voice in an attempt to make progress on their most treasured policy. I fear for a party that now has no identity beyond the coalition itself and could suffer a catastrophic demise at the next election. Regardless, they are in no position to do anything but offer tacit support to the Tories for now. As for Labour, could there really be a worse time for a long drawn out leadership battle that is struggling to maintain interest from it’s own membership let alone from the wider electorate? What we need are Labour’s biggest and best minds working together to build public campaigns, raise the level of debate and hold this un-mandated government to account.
The Tories and their agenda have stolen a march and currently there is no one to stop them. That thought alone is enough to keep me from sleeping.